At the end of February, William and I competed in our first Prix St. Georges class. While we were still struggling with our changes in series and canter pirouettes, I felt like the rest of the pieces were there. We had a lot of changes happening around us; his medium County Fusion was being changed into a wide so I was using a loaner from my gracious saddle fitter Cindy and my recent ride with Felicitas von Neumann-Cosel blew my mind. She gave me an exercise for my seat that tweaked the way I rode quite a bit (which I had thought was sufficient before). It’s amazing what two polo wraps tied together can do!
As the show crept closer, I kept a rhythm going with our daily training so I wouldn’t over work William or drill the tests. Monday we worked in a lower frame, Tuesday was trot work, Wednesday canter work, Thursday was an easy day and Friday we schooled pieces of the test. This, however, didn’t stop my nerves or the “will we make fools of ourselves” sentiments. Should I show in the snaffle or finally use the double? What if he braces on me? What if I can’t get anything to come through? Everyone will think I’m foolish for showing in the snaffle. This was only fueled by the dreaded “this feels awful” blues the week we were headed off to our show. He was getting stiff and grumpy and he fed off my nerves. I did what I could to stay positive and told myself it's the first one of the season and to let it flow.
I packed both the double and the snaffle, doubting myself the entire 2.2 hour drive to John’s Island, SC. We arrived and were immediately welcomed by our good show friends from Beyond Dressage in Aiken, SC. We had been going to nearly all of the same shows during the 2015 season and really enjoy spending time with the group. William and I were invited to stable with them which made the experience much more fun and supportive. They all knew this was our PSG debut and were excited for us. Their positivity helped me in many ways!
Mikki and I have our show routine down. We have been doing this a long time together - she was my groom when I was an instructor at MMIEC years ago. We have become a (fairly) well oiled machine. She jumps out of the creeping truck and runs around the barns to find our stall. She flags me down. I park as she tears open shavings bags. I unload William, she fills water buckets. William pees in his stall while we continue to unload the rest of our gear. I park the trailer as she sets up our area. I go check us in and Mikki finds her massage/braiding clients who have scheduled her at the shows we attend.
Once we are settled in, it’s time to take Will for a walk and a little work around the show grounds, particularly in the rings we will be showing. If this were some place new or William stepped off the trailer on high alert before getting on I would be hand walking him (see Heeding) before we even tacked him up but William is fairly comfortable everywhere we go as long as we have remembered his food. So up I go!
William felt amazing. I was so ready for some stiffness or reluctance to work but he felt like a prowling cat smoothly walking around, flexing left or right or moving laterally off my leg. Okay, maybe this won’t be a complete $%&! show after all. I ask for trot and instead of some cobwebs and clunkiness to get out he is smooth and offering swing right away. I look over to Mikki to see if she is seeing what I am feeling. Canter, yep, that there is a nice canter. Changes? Oh yes, they are available on this model. My heart began to pump blood again with the happy horse I had under me. I schooled a few changes but called it a day after about 15 minutes. No need to drill. He was here and with me mentally and physically. My expectations for the weekend grew a little bit and I confidently told my crew no double. We will show in the snaffle this weekend!
Saturday comes and my day is scheduled as such: 4-2 09:01am, PSG 09:51am. (Honestly, I never get classes this close. Ever.) I start my warm up for 4th and darn if William still didn’t feel amazing. Even with a loose pony haulin’ buns all over the Mullet Hall Equestrian Center he was calm and focused on me. We went down centerline and rocked our first fourth level test with a 66.7%. Holy Christmas. I couldn’t have smiled more if I had been handed a puppy along with that blue ribbon and To-Go Wine Cup from the SCDCTA. 1/4 of my Silver Medal score complete.
We had just enough time after my ride to let Will back into his stall for a quick drink and a poop (he does not poop in public!). I got time to change coats and go over my PSG. I was up and on before I knew it, in the warm up ring with Silva Martin, Charlotte Bayley and several other pretty prominent riders and there I was working my transitions and quality of gaits. There were 17 riders in the PSG on Saturday. We earned 7th place.
Of course I made silly mistakes which cost me points but overall I left the arena beaming. My draft cross just successfully ran through a PSG test. We had a tough judge (and had her on both days) but we earned some decent marks (like 6.5 on canter a pirouette and a 7 on our extended trot). The final score wasn’t what I had envisioned but it was a great starting point. I was able to bring it up by .7% on Sunday. We have all season to bring it the rest of the way up.
Now, I would be lying if I said I left the show grounds feeling that positive about it. Heck no, I was discouraged and disappointed and sad but only in myself. William had performed like a rock star and he went through the square the best I had ever felt him. It’s only now after thinking on it and talking with my trainer about it that I feel better about our PSG start. We just keep working at it: don’t give up and don’t give in!